Category Archives: Pre-arrest Investigation
Tucked into the New Jersey Court Rules is a little used rule dealing with the return of seized property. Unbeknownst to almost any lawyer, a motion to return property can be made by anyone who has an interest in seized property regardless of whether or not they have been arrested. This provision is likely unknown by so many because it is a rare case where property is seized but the person is not arrested. However, this does happen with computer crimes such as child pornography cases.
The benefit to such a motion isn’t really to get the property returned but it is to gather information about the State’s case and to shake the State’s confidence in their case. If either or both are accomplished, the defense attorney may be successful in preventing the client from ever getting arrested. How do I know? Because I successfully executed this strategy with a child pornography case. I also learned how little used this rule was when the presiding criminal division judge tried to tell me that I couldn’t file such a motion. It took me 2 months to overcome every objection she kept trying to come up with but in the end, I was successful. The motion was heard and it was denied but the Prosecutor’s Office assured me at the end of the motion that my client would not be prosecuted which is all we really cared about. It was a great win.
Some child pornography cases start with the police showing up at your house at 6am with a search warrant. They will take your computers, bring you down to the police station, ask you to make a statement and then arrest you regardless of what you say (almost all of the time anyway). Thus, there is no time to “lawyer up” beforehand. However, there are cases where, for a variety of reasons, there is a lag time between the time the allegation is made to the time the suspect is arrested. This is a crucial period of time where every second counts. Hiring a lawyer at this time is very important and yet, many people don’t.
I hate to play amateur psychologist but I often ask people why they didn’t hire a lawyer. There are a number of reasons and sometimes the reason they give isn’t the real reason. But by asking the question, I can at least come up with a few theories. Law enforcement is very respected, especially among the average child pornography suspect who will often have no prior criminal record or involvement. Hiring a lawyer before they are arrested may be seen as disrespect to law enforcement who will then clearly see that they are guilty. After all, if you didn’t do anything wrong, why do you need a lawyer? Trust me when I tell you that if anyone has accused you of a child pornography offense, they probably already think you are 100% guilty. Furthermore, I have never seen a case where someone was arrested because they hired a lawyer.
Another reason why people don’t hire a lawyer is because they fear the cost. However, the cost is often very inexpensive at this point because there are no court appearances. Yet another reason seems to be a psychological one. It appears that some people think that by hiring a lawyer, they are admitting either that they are guilty (to themselves) or that they will get arrested. Too many people hope of the best, assume nothing will happen and that not hiring a lawyer will help ensure that it will all just go away. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be more wrong. I once had a client call me for a computer crime case after being fired from his work. I told him he needed a lawyer ASAP but he didn’t agree. He called me the next week to tell me that the police just executed a search warrant and took all of his computers. In other words, I was right.
Thus, if you are suspected or accused or any child pornography offense by an employer, school, business, police or anyone, you should call a lawyer ASAP before you even think about handling this by yourself. We have proven time and time again that our pre-arrest strategies are very effective. While we cannot guarantee you that you will not be arrested, we have helped many people with a wide variety of cases not get arrested.